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HBO’s Watchmen review: what the f**k

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HBO’s reworking of Alan Moore’s comic, Watchmen, might not grab you immediately – even if you’re a fan of it or of Zack Snyder’s 2009 film. Snyder’s adaptation is a little out there, but by comparison, the new TV version is utterly bonkers. The show is off-kilter and totally unashamed of what it is. Its desire from the start to be open about its intentions and style becomes endearing, rather than off-putting.

At time of writing this, the show (put together by Damon Lindelof: Lost, The Leftovers) is six episodes into nine of the first season. It’s gathering pace nicely, too. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen any yet, I aim to give a taste of the experience rather than a breakdown. And if you’re interested in some weird af trivia… found out more about that big, blue dildo.

Watchmen takes a little while to find your bearings with, but after two episodes that becomes part of the fun. The fragmentation adds mystery and it’s filled with wonderful what-the-fuck moments. Conspiracy, secrets and action unfold with a stylish mix of sci-fi and down to earth drama.

As yet, stand out performances from Tim Blake Nelson and Jeremy Irons border on some of the unrivalled television thespianism this year. Paula Malcomson even shows up and she’ll always be a personal favourite of mine and all Deadwood fans. Jean Smart is excellent and clearly has a sense of humour… 

It looks great and Watchmen’s soundtrack is enjoyable too. A nice mix of classical, old, contemporary and covers which help accentuate the flits in time, given that the narrative shifts about and tries to discombobulate you. The story starts at a rabbit hole which descends into a warren which may or may not be what it seems. Six episodes in, it’s still revealing itself and boy has it become a fun ride to be on.

Apparently, Lindelof’s version deviates heavily from the comic (yes it is a comic); it contemporises Moore’s source material to add current commentary, rather than that of the eighties when it was written. It’s set in 2019, but not our 2019. Watchmen certainly feels like there’s lots of the fear and issues of today in it, while still heavy on story set in that original decade.

No doubt Moore will be spinning in his grave with anger about it, still, when he dies. He’s been very vocally upset about the onscreen versions of his work and is on record as having requested his name removed from the credits. That’s a shame, but also an issue for a larger debate on the philosophy of authorship. Until then, let’s enjoy the telly box.

Perhaps Watchmen’s inaugural series will crash and burn in its final three episodes. I certainly hope not. When it hooks you, you’ll enjoy every tug on that hook. No matter how slow or sharp the hook is tugged it’ll be fun, as you’re hopefully pulled toward oxygen. To what is really happening in Watchmen’s alternate 2019.

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